Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert

ISBN: 0765306476
ISBN 13: 9780765306470
By: Brian Herbert

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About this book

Everyone knows Frank Herbert's Dune.This amazing and complex epic, combining politics, religion, human evolution, and ecology, has captured the imagination of generations of readers. One of the most popular science fiction novels ever written, it has become a worldwide phenomenon, winning awards, selling millions of copies around the world. In the prophetic year of 1984, Dune was made into a motion picture directed by David Lynch, and it has recently been produced as a three-part miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel. Though he is best remembered for Dune, Frank Herbert was the author of more than twenty books at the time of his tragic death in 1986, including such classic novels as The Green Brain, The Santaroga Barrier, The White Plague and Dosadi Experiment.Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert's eldest son, tells the provocative story of his father's extraordinary life in this honest and loving chronicle. He has also brought to light all the events in Herbert's life that would find their way into speculative fiction's greatest epic.From his early years in Tacoma, Washington, and his education at the University of Washington, Seattle, and in the Navy, through the years of trying his hand as a TV cameraman, radio commentator, reporter, and editor of several West Coast newspaper, to the difficult years of poverty while struggling to become a published writer, Herbert worked long and hard before finding success after the publication of Dune in 1965. Brian Herbert writes about these years with a truthful intensity that brings every facet of his father's brilliant, and sometimes troubled, genius to full light.Insightful and provocative, containing family photos never published anywhere, this absorbing biography offers Brian Herbert' unique personal perspective on one of the most enigmatic and creative talents of our time. Dreamer of Dune is a 2004 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Related Work.

Reader's Thoughts

Mike Frizzell

In places the prose is clunky, but overall a decent look at the life of a ground-breaking Amercan writer.

Christopher Boland

A very interesting man, journo and jack of all trades.


The fascinating story of the life of one of my favorite authors. The writing is at times amateurish and in need of editing, but at other times beautiful and poignant. Despite this complaint, I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Frank Herbert.

Scott Golden

It's a mixed bag:Part fond reminiscence, including heretofore unrevealed family history;Part cheerleading session, if you don't know after reading this book that "Dune" & "Soul Catcher" were Frank's favorite of his own works then you haven't paid attention during the MULTIPLE repetitions of this fact;Part airing of grievances, Frank was less-than-accepting when Brian's brother 'came out'.The book is uneven -- more focused during the early 'family history' section, long and drawn out during an overly detailed description, culled from Brian's diary, of his mother's (Frank's wife) battle with fatal illness. Despite its flaws, if you're a fan of the man's work it's worth taking the time and effort to read.

Sam Dupont

reading now

Ian Chapman

Interesting work, although maybe would have been better with some editing. Brian Herbert reveals that his father, partly of Catholic Irish-American background, was extremely anti-English. This shows in the Dune universe, where there is no reference to any specifically English cultural heritage out in the future, that I can recall. Frank Herbert is also shown as a longterm Republican Party supporter, on the grounds of extreme anti-marxism, and supporter of President Nixon. He went on a mission to Vietnam to check on the development of agriculture, as part of his work as an ecological journalist, and to Pakistan, for the US government. Not much on the themes in Herbert's science fiction, so a personal rather than literary biography, but revealing and worthwhile.

Chad East

had trouble getting through it. Never finished it.

Post Defiance

The following originally posted at http://postdefiance.com/son-of-tacoma..., written by Erik Hanberg.He wrote one of the bestselling science fiction novels ever. He won both the Nebula and the Hugo Awards – the two most prestigious awards in science fiction. NASA has officially approved the naming of geographic features on Saturn’s moon Titan after words coined by him.He’s from Tacoma, but no one here seems to know it.The man is Frank Herbert, and he is the author of the science fiction classic Dune, as well as five sequels set in the world that book imagined.Frank Herbert was born in Tacoma on October 8, 1920 – his mother’s 19th birthday. His binge-drinking father rarely held a steady job. At the time of Frank’s birth, his father operated a bus line between Tacoma and Aberdeen. Among other jobs, he later sold cars, managed a dance hall, and worked for the Washington State Patrol.Frank Herbert had the kind of childhood that would cause statewide news alerts today, filled with tales that sound more like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn rather than anyone’s actual experiences.At the age of nine he rowed from Burley on the Kitsap Peninsula to the San Juan Islands alone, often hitching rides with tugboats by holding on to their hulls.In his youth, he went hunting (alone) and brought back game for his family to eat.At 14, he swam across the Tacoma Narrows (there was no bridge until 1940).Shortly thereafter, he and a friend sailed nearly 2,000 miles round-trip to the fjords of British Columbia.In Brian Herbert’s biography of his father, Dreamer of Dune (which provided many of the details in this article) he writes that on the Puget Sound, “Frank Herbert developed a deep respect for the natural rhythms of nature. The ecology message, so prevalent in much of his writing, is one of his most important legacies.”Frank Herbert loved the Puget Sound, and anytime he traveled or moved away for a job, he always returned, calling the Sound his “Tara,” a reference to Scarlett’s refuge in Gone With the Wind.Herbert’s feats weren’t all in the natural world, however. At 12, he read the complete works of Shakespeare, and gobbled up Marcel Proust and Herman Melville. Like many avid readers, he tried his own hand at writing, and at 14 he was given his first typewriter.“One day my father went for advice to a writer living in Tacoma who had sold a couple novels and several short stories,” writes Brian Herbert. “The response: ‘Work like hell, kid.’”Herbert took this counsel to heart. His writing career included work as a journalist, a political speechwriter for a US Senator from Oregon, and as a short story writer before he was finally able to devote himself to writing his novels full time.When reviewing the life of Frank Herbert, one gets the impression that he was trying to live in every part of Tacoma and do all things quintessentially Tacoman. At various points, he lived on Day Island, in Dash Point, Browns Point, and on the Eastside. He attended Stewart Middle School and Lincoln High School. He wrote for the Tacoma Ledger and the Tacoma Times. At age 21, he and his sweetheart fell in love in Salem, Oregon, where they were then living. On a whim, they drove to Tacoma to get married, because he thought it would be meaningful to have the ceremony in his hometown.In 1955, Herbert had a budding family in Tacoma and needed a car for them. Being short on funds, as writers often are, he found a sweet deal on a used car: $300 for a funeral home hearse. He enjoyed wearing his darkest suit, impersonating a funeral director, and pulling his hearse up next to carloads of teenagers. Herbert would leave them sobered, giving them a dark scowl and intoning a significant “Drive carefully,” and then peel rubber as he drove away.The origins of the novel Dune came to Herbert while visiting the sand dunes of Florence, Oregon. But the idea of a world destroyed by environmental catastrophe and the environmental theme at the heart of Dune, draw directly from Herbert’s life in Tacoma.Brian Herbert reveals the connection to Tacoma in Dreamer of Dune:In a conversation with Dad, [his lifetime friend] Howie told me he said angrily, “They’re gonna turn this whole planet into a wasteland, just like North Africa.”“Yeah,” Frank Herbert responded. “Like a big dune.”By the time Dad said this, the elements of his story were coming together. He had in mind a messianic leader in a world covered entirely with sand. Ecology would be a central theme of the story, emphasizing the delicate balance of nature …Dad was a daily witness to conditions in Tacoma, which in the 1950s was known as one of the nation’s most polluted cities, largely due to a huge smelter whose stack was visible from all over the city, a stack that belched filth into the sky. The air was “so thick you could chew it,” my father liked to quip. The increasing pollution he saw all around him, in the city of his birth, contributed to his resolve that something had to be done to save the Earth. This became, perhaps, the most important message of Dune [emphasis added].In other words, Tacoma’s pollution was so bad, primarily due to the ASARCO smelter, that it inspired Herbert’s message of conservation. It may not be a legacy that Tacomans want, but it is a legacy nonetheless.The growing environmental awareness of the 1960s, of which Dune was very much a part, led to environmental reforms and regulations to put a stop to the most egregious assaults on the environment. ASARCO shut down its smelter, and on January 17, 1993 – exactly 20 years ago this week – its stack was demolished.Just as the iconic stack is gone without a trace (save for remnants of its toxic plume), it seems all memory of Frank Herbert has disappeared from Tacoma as well. How could a Tacoma artist with his fame, literary significance, and quirks of character have so little recognition in his hometown?Thea Foss has a waterway. Murray Morgan and Dale Chihuly both have bridges. Where is the Frank Herbert Bridge or Frank Herbert Park? Dune Boulevard? The Frank Herbert Center for the Literary Arts?The tourism slogan we currently use to promote Tacoma is “Where Art and Nature Meet.” That describes Frank Herbert to a T.It’s time to embrace the boy who swam the Narrows, who fished on Tacoma’s beaches, and who grew up to be one of the most influential science fiction authors of all time.Erik Hanberg is a Commissioner on the Metro Parks Tacoma Board, elected in 2011. He is also the author of The Saints Go Dying and The Marinara Murders and will be publishing his first science fiction novel in 2013.

Scott Bodien

How could I not be swept away by the Evergreen state imagery and the fact Group Health saved both of their lives?!?


Wonderful biography of Frank Herbert


I just finished this biography written by Brian Herbert and......wow...I really disliked it. Let's just say I have personal reasons for reading this book. This account read like a 13-year old's diary - shoving snippets here and there - oddly mashed, incomplete and a lot of times out of place. The constant tug of pity-me/praise-me irritated me the whole way through and made it apparent that Brian has unresolved daddy issues. Cry me a river....What strikes me most about this book is how Brian wrote in regard to his younger brother Bruce. The "number 2 son" (an unnecessary, self propelling label - I mean really, Brian?) was barely mentioned and mostly coupled with his "unfortunate homosexuality" that Brian and his whole family "wished he wasn't". This made Brian almost seem no better than a bigot - with lines like "Brian and his gay lover arrived" or "experimenting in homosexual practices because my father didn't give him enough attention". Are you kidding me? Maybe Brian turned to drugs, because he couldn't come to terms with his homosexuality - which NEWS FLASH, isn't a choice. This book was published in 2003, not 1973. Herbert did not even mention that Bruce died from AIDS, alone, in 1993. My heart goes out to him and the unfortunate family situation that he was born into. Ultimately, this book did try and portray the fantastic life of an amazing author, but was overpowered by obvious misgivings felt by Brian. I guess I could not expect any more than this from a man who has made his living by coat-tailing off the legacy started by his father.


A better title would of been, "Oh, Poor brian Herbert." This so called biography spends to much time focusing on Brian and what he was going through and nowhere nearly enough on the truly interesting subject, Frank Herbert. There are just enough tidbits about Frank to elevate this to a three star work, but just barely. There are glimpses of the love between Frank and his wife Beverly that show the depth of their relationship and what it actually meant to Frank as a writer.


This is more of a Brian Herbert pitty party than a biography of Frank Herbert. The writing is as bad as his Dune sequel/prequels. Really, if someone is reading this there's a good chance they're a fan of FH and have read his books, you don't have to tell us what they're about every time they're mentioned. I gave it two starts just for the information about FH I didn't know before.


...Brian Herbert has received a lot of criticism for the way he has dealt with Frank Herbert's literary legacy. Some of it even justified given the quality of the recent Dune books. I was afraid that with a book weighing in at well over 500 pages he had gone a bit overboard on this project. I read the book in four days in which I ought to have been studying a lot more than I actually did. Brian Herbert's description of his father's life is a fascinating read. He shows us a complex man, at once brilliant and clumsy, ambitious and stubborn. A man who has written some of the finest science fiction novels ever but only a shadow of himself without his wife Beverly. It's written in a way that will reach out and grab you, a book that will put Frank Herbert's stories in a new perspective and above all a book that will leave you with the feeling Frank Herbert wasn't nearly done with life when his time came. I should not have waited so long before reading it.Full Random Comments review

James Resch

The story of Frank Herbert is as interesting to me as the stories he wrote. Not completely for everyone, but for Dune nerds its a must.

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